Lenovo ThinkSystem DE4000F Review

Lenovo is getting very serious about storage as its recent partnership with NetApp has resulted in the announcement of ten new products. Comprising an extensive range of hybrid and all-Flash solutions, this new family puts Lenovo right in the heart of the enterprise storage battleground where it aims to go head-to-head with HPE and Dell EMC.

On review is the ThinkSystem DE4000F – an entry-level 2U 24-bay all-Flash array with dual active/active controllers incorporating integral load balancing and automatic failover. Each are powered by dual-core Intel Xeon D-1500 CPUs partnered by 8GB of cache memory which is used to mirror data between the controllers and has battery backup protection allowing data to be de-staged to integral Flash memory in the event of a failure.

NetApp is the power behind the ThinkSystem throne as the DE4000F runs its SANtricity System Manager OS which is built to offer an affordable combination of high performance and data protection features. Based on NetApp’s EF280 all-Flash array, the DE4000F claims a maximum read bandwidth of 10GBytes/sec and 300,000 IOPS for random reads operations.

If you want more than this, the higher-end ThinkSystem DE6000F offers a 21GBytes/sec read bandwidth and up to 1 million random read IOPS. Both arrays use the same controllers, but the DE6000F is endowed with a total of 128GB of system cache memory.

Simple deployment

The TSM console provides plenty of valuable information about array performance, alerts and your storage hierarchy

The DE4000F is managed via the Lenovo ThinkSystem Manager (TSM) web console which provided a configuration wizard to get us out of the starting blocks. The review system was supplied with twelve 800GB Toshiba eMLC mixed–use SSDs and we used the wizard to create a single storage pool with its recommended settings.

You can choose from a range of standard RAID arrays but TSM’s dynamic disk pools (DDPs) offer so much more. Requiring a minimum of 11 SSDs, a DDP automatically applies RAID6 across all drives and distributes hot-spare, or preservation, capacity so no SSDs are left idle in standby and rebuilds are much faster than classic RAID arrays.

Other valuable features of DDPs are global deduplication is applied across the entire pool and you have the option to dynamically add multiple SSDs to a pool or remove them. Creating volumes within a DDP couldn’t be easier either as the TSM’s wizard offers a wide selection of predefined workloads which automatically configure them with the most appropriate settings.

Data protection features are also great as the base price includes scheduled plus on-demand snapshots and supports up to 512 targets. Volumes can be mirrored using up to 32 pairs, asynchronous mirroring allows volumes to be mirrored to another storage array while the optional synchronous mirroring feature performs real-time replication.

More management and port choices

Quick access links to features such as snapshots, hosts and replication are provided in the web console

The array can also be managed using Lenovo’s SAN Manager which we installed on a Windows Server 2016 host in the lab and left it to discover the review system. It offers a basic feature set as it is designed to monitor multiple arrays from one web console where it provides simple alerting facilities, options to configure access security and certificates plus a quick link for launching the array’s TSM web console.

We run Lenovo’s XClarity Administrator v2.3 in the lab as a Hyper-V VM and had to manually add the DE4000F as it doesn’t support SLP (service location protocol) so won’t be automatically discovered. From the XClarity web console, we could monitor the array and pull up a full hardware inventory but it doesn’t support remote firmware upgrades or hardware metrics and you can’t view the array’s storage pools or volumes from here.

The DE4000F has plenty of data port options as each controller has dual embedded universal SFP+ ports supporting 4/8/16Gbps FC or 10GbE iSCSI operations. There’s room for more as the expansion slot on each controller accepts Lenovo’s host interface cards (HICs) with options for 4-port 8/16/32Gbps FC, 10/25GbE, SAS3 or universal 10GbE/16Gbps iSCSI/FC modules.

You can expand outside the box as the controller’s dual SAS3 ports allow you to daisy-chain up to seven DE240S 24-bay shelves for a maximum of 192 SSDs. If you’re using a DDP pool, you can add up to 60 extra SSDs to it at a time and dynamically expand volumes.

Fiber channel performance

Basic array management and monitoring are also provided by Lenovo’s SAN Manager and XClarity Administrator apps

Lenovo supplied our review system with dual 16Gbps FC transceivers in each controller’s universal ports. For performance testing, we called up a couple of Xeon Scalable Windows 2016 rack servers equipped with dual-port QLogic QLE2672 FC cards.

To achieve 32Gbps MPIO links, we had to connect each server to both ports on separate controllers. The DE4000F uses ALUA (asymmetric logical unit access) so connecting the servers to a port on each controller would have provided link redundancy but only a top speed of 16Gbps as the secondary link is placed in standby for failover duties.

We ran Iometer simultaneously on both test servers and recorded high cumulative sequential read and write speeds of 49Gbits/sec and 31Gbits/sec. For random reads and writes, we saw total throughputs of 49Gbits/sec and 23.3Gbits/sec.

General I/O performance is equally good as with Iometer changed to 4KB block sizes, it reported 572,500 and 124,000 IOPS for sequential reads and writes along with 401,000 and 52,200 IOPS for random operations. We did see the TSM’s CPU utilization graph hitting 100% during these IOPS tests but it’s worth noting that our random read results were a third higher than Lenovo’s claims.

 Conclusion

This partnership with NetApp now allows Lenovo to provide enterprises with a one-stop shop for servers and storage and as one of the first of the new ThinkSystems to emerge, the DE4000F clearly has a lot to offer. Along with an easy deployment, this all-Flash solution delivers a great performance, combines this with plenty of data protection features and delivers it all at a sensible price.

9.5 Total Score

This partnership with NetApp now allows Lenovo to provide enterprises with a one-stop shop for servers and storage and as one of the first of the new ThinkSystems to emerge, the DE4000F clearly has a lot to offer. Along with an easy deployment, this all-Flash solution delivers a great performance, combines this with plenty of data protection features and delivers it all at a sensible price.

Performance
9.5
Features
9
Build quality
9
Usability
8.5
Value
9.5
PROS
  • Great value
  • Active/active controllers
  • Dynamic disk pools
  • High FC performance
  • Plenty of data port choices
  • Extensive data protection features
CONS
  • Limited integration with XClarity Administrator
User Rating: 5 (1 votes)

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply